Remember Beverly Hills 90210? The old one, not the next generation one. Well, remember how there was that whole plot line about how the school created a rule that anyone who got drunk at prom wouldn’t be allowed to participate in graduation? And then Donna got drunk at prom, got caught, and was told she couldn’t graduate? But wait! All the 90210 gang, having decided the rule was unfair, walked out of finals and chanted, “Donna Martin graduates!” outside Donna’s disciplinary hearing until all the adults in the famous zip code capitulated and let Donna do exactly what she wanted because they realized they had been so unfair as to make a capricious and arbitrary rule about underage drinking. Remember all that? And remember how, as a teenager in 1993, you thought that was awesome? But now as an adult you look at that and think “Dude, WTF? She knew the rules and she broke them. Donna Martin does NOT graduate. And frankly, all the kids should fail the finals they refused to take.”
Or is that only me?
As a teen, I wasn’t big on doing what I was told. I was pretty sure most of the rules in the world were dumb and shouldn’t apply to sensitive artists like me. Rules like doing my math homework. And wearing weather-appropriate clothing. However, I’ve become much more of a rule follower as I’ve aged, even if I don’t like the rules. I’m a proponent of law and order and I understand that I can’t pick and choose my rules. I can lobby to change them – and I do – but I follow them until they’re changed.
All of this leads me to a recent news story about a 6 year old who was forced to issue an apology for bringing a toy gun on a bus. The school district in question had a zero-tolerance policy on toys guns and this kid broke it and faced the consequences. But, there’s a “Donna Martin graduates” furor erupting because the toy gun in question was smaller than a quarter. It looks like a Lego gun or something. It could in no way be mistaken for a real gun and the only danger it poses is if you step on it barefoot. Punishing him for bringing it to school seems pretty silly. The school concurs and has backed off the initial punishment of detention after seeing video footage of the incident on the bus.
That’s good in the short term for this little boy except… the rule says no toy guns in school. At all. Not “no toys guns larger than pocket change.” No toy guns. None. The kid broke the rule. There should be consequences to breaking rules.
Is this rule stupid? Maybe. If you were the gang from 90210 looking at the infinite shades of gray in the behavior of young people, yeah, a rule that doesn’t differentiate between a real gun or a realistic toy gun and one for an action figure is stupid. But if you’re a school administrator who has to keep the peace for all students, a blanket no-tolerance policy is easier to explain and enforce. No guns. Period. Tell parents at the beginning of the school year that kids can’t bring toy guns to school and that’s it. That’s all. It then becomes a parent’s responsibility to say to their kids “Look, I know GI Joe has cool weapons and you want to show your friends, but you’ll have to wait until the weekend. No toy guns are allowed at school.” Or they can do what I do with my preschooler and tell them not to bring any toys to school unless it’s show and tell day. Granted, I mainly do that so precious treasures don’t get lost or broken but it also keeps me from running afoul of any regulations about what types of toys are allowed.
Whether these kinds of policies are right or wrong is a larger discussion for another time. I just know that I know now that Donna Martin broke the rules and there are consequences to doing that. If she didn’t like the rule, she should have tried to change it rather than just breaking it.
Photo courtesy of WGGB.com